Le Nil Bleu, a pillar of Ethiopian cuisine in Montreal since 1994, gets a look this week from Le Journal de Montréal critic Thierry Daraize. The Saint-Denis street restaurant, fresh off a makeover that has stripped the premises of some of its charm, offers diners the promise of escape "sans prendre la route, le bateau ou l’avion." The largely stewed, and spicy dishes that emerge from the kitchen are affordable, and the fact that vegetarians can eat well here is a plus, the critic remarks.
On a night when the restaurant is full of groups and tourists (Le Nil Bleu is attached to a hotel), Daraize's party is greeted rather coldly. Not a good start. The server, however — "un ange qui prend son travail très au sérieux" — redeems matters in due course. Happily, food is not Le Nil Bleu's problem. Side dishes of note include a lentil salad, confit vegetables with dates and nuts, a spicy beef tartare, and an aubergine purée ("Oh là là que c’est bon!"). The pièce de résistance consists of a "grand plateau de dégustation" with several stews portioned out on a large, fermented teff flour flatbread, i.e. the traditional Ethiopian injera. The meatless options are standouts: "elles étonnent par leurs saveurs et les épices douces."
Le Nil Bleu is a charming culinary adventure, Daraize writes in conclusion. Some of the kitchen's offerings bear too many similarities, but it's all expertly prepared. Verdict: an impressive three stars on five.